All evacuees from eastern Manitoba fires airlifted to Winnipeg

All evacuees from Little Grand Rapids and Pauingassi First Nations are in Winnipeg Friday, the Canadian Red Cross said, as 25,000-hectare fire continues to burn just a few kilometres away from their communities.

Poor weather Thursday night grounded flights, stranding 41 people

A water bomber heads toward a wildfire near Pauingassi First Nation in Manitoba earlier this week. (CBC)

Everyone from Little Grand Rapids and Pauingassi First Nations were safely in Winnipeg as of Friday, the Canadian Red Cross said, as 25,000-hectare fire continues to burn just a few kilometres away from their communities.

The remaining 18 evacuees from Pauingassi landed in Winnipeg just after noon on Friday, completing an evacuation process that started Tuesday night and included assistance from the Canadian military.

"The Canadian Red Cross is very pleased that we have been able to complete what was a challenging, but ultimately successful evacuation," said Shawn Feely of the Red Cross in a written statement.

"We understand it was a very stressful experience for the residents of the two communities but we hope they will be able to relax a bit now that they are safely in Winnipeg."

In total, more than 1,100 evacuees were airlifted to Winnipeg over multiple days, including more than 820 from Little Grand Rapids and 330 from Pauingassi. The communities are about 265 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg near the Ontario border and are less than 20 kilometres apart.

The Red Cross has arranged for the evacuees to stay in a number of Winnipeg hotels.

Evacuations were expected to be complete Thursday night but bad weather grounded flights, the Red Cross said earlier Friday. Forty-one people spent the night in Little Grand Rapids: 23 responders and 18 Pauingassi evacuees, who were brought by float plane to Little Grand Rapids because their community doesn't have an airstrip.

The Red Cross is also supporting a further 830 evacuees from Sapotaweyak Cree Nation, about 400 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, after another fire near that community. Evacuees from Sapotaweyak are staying in hotels in The Pas, Swan River and Brandon.​

An evacuation of Kinonjeoshtegon First Nation (in the province's Interlake Region) ended earlier this week, allowing about 100 people to return.

183 fires so far in Manitoba, well above average

The fire near Little Grand Rapids and Pauingassi was caused by a human around midday on Monday, the province has said. A provincial fire bulletin on Friday said the fire has grown to 25,000 hectares and is roughly four kilometres away from Pauingassi.

That fire is one of 183 fires so far this year in Manitoba, the province said, including 10 that started on Friday. The 20-year average for the number of fires that have started by May 25 is 105.

Ontario and Quebec have both sent help to battle the fires. Ontario sent 120 firefighters and Quebec provided four water bombers.

"Warm temperatures and strong winds continue to make firefighting difficult in many areas," the province wrote in its Friday fire bulletin.

Steady rain near Sapotaweyak helped with suppression of that fire, the province said.

​Precipitation also assisted in the battle against multiple fire burning near Ashern, Man., about 170 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg in the Interlake area.

Crews are still working on hot spots in the area, but the two-hour evacuation alert for the community was lifted Friday morning.

Other crews are working to protect homes near Little Grand Rapids and Pauingassi with sprinklers and power remains out in the communities.

The province is reminding the public about fire and travel restrictions in effect across south, central and western Manitoba. For more information on these, visit the province's website for provincial bans or its page detailing restrictions from municipal governments.